Cars approach the starting line in front of empty stands to start the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Cars approach the starting line in front of empty stands to start the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)|Associated Press
NASCAR

NASCAR is back at Darlington Raceway Wednesday night for the Toyota 500 – the Eckel 3 makes their picks

Toyota 500, Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C., Wednesday, 7:30 pm, FS1

Mark Eckel

After an over two-month layoff NASCAR is back with its second race in four days with the Toyota 500, Wednesday night, at Darlington Raceway.

What we learned in the first race back Sunday at Darlington is that Kevin Harvick is still really good and that two rookies bear watching the rest of the season.

Harvick took over in Stage 3 Sunday and coasted to his 50th career win. The current points leader, with 218, became just the 14th driver in history to win 50 races and just the third active driver (Jimmie Johnson 83, Kyle Busch 56) to do so. He is the 7-2 favorite to win No. 51 Wednesday night.

So while Harvick made it to victory lane, two NASCAR newcomers, Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek, cracked the top 10 at a track usually dominated by veterans.

Reddick, the 24-year-old, two-time Infinity Champion, came from the back on two different occasions to finish seventh in an impressive drive.

Nemechek, a 22-year-old from Mooresville, N.C., may have been even more impressive. He had never raced at Darlington before Sunday and went out and finished in ninth place.

Despite those performance neither rookie has made a mark on the oddsmakers. Reddick is 60-1 Wednesday night, while Nemechek is 150-1.

The Eckel 3 did not fare so well Sunday, as somehow all three overlooked Harvick. But the trio, which as always includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker and Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney, will try again Wednesday night.

Here are the selections.

Denny Hamlin (8-1): All three of the Eckel 3 agreed on Hamlin, who will try for his second win of the season and his third career win in Darlington. And shouldn’t a Toyota win the Toyota 500?

Kevin Harvick (7-2): Same driver. Same car. Same track. Would you be shocked if he won again?

Brad Keselowski (7-1): He led early Sunday and then faded out of the top 10. His win in ’18 and a fifth-place finish last year shows he knows the track.

Chase Elliott (9-1): Elliott has done everything this year, except win a race. Same goes for him at Darlington. Maybe he ends both droughts Wednesday.

Longshots

Kurt Busch (14-1): He raced very well Sunday for a third-place finish.

Eric Jones (20-1): He won here last year and has been in the top eight four times at Darlington.

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